FORMER Abia State governor Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has had his 12 year conviction for corruption and money laundering quashed by the Nigerian Supreme Court today on a technicality that he was convicted by the wrong type of court.
In December, Senator Kalu was sentenced to 12 years in jail after being found guilty of fraud to the tune of N7.65bn ($21m) by a Lagos federal high court. Currently the chief whip of the senate, between 1999 and 2007, Senator Kalu served as the Abia State governor and it is his actions while in office that were probed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In February last year, Senator Kalu, 60, was elected as the senator representing Abia North Senatorial District with a margin of over 10,000 votes despite the pending corruption charges against him. However, after his trial, the court found Senator Kalu and his co-defendants guilty of the entire 39 counts filed against them by the EFCC.
Senator Kalu had been convicted alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria and his former Abia State director of finance, Ude Udeogu. However, today, the Supreme Court ruled that the judgement delivered is set aside as Justice Mohammed Idris, who convicted Senator Kalu, lacked the power to sentence the former governor.
Supreme Court judged agreed with the argument in Senator Kalu’s appeal challenging the jurisdiction of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court chaired by Justice Idris to sentence him. Senator Kalu had argued that the court of appeal judge who delivered the judgement at the Federal High Court to convict him lacked the power to do so.
Despite the objections raised by Senator Kalu’s counsels, the appeal court judge proceeded with the case at the high Court and sentenced him. However, today’s victory, Senator Kalu is free to return to the senate and resume his position as chief whip.